The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

April 20, 2016

April 20, 1887

Dinah Craik (April 20, 1826 to October 12, 1887) was a Victorian novelist and poet. Here is a example of her writing, an excerpt from a poem titled "Lost in the Mist."  Here she is contemplating her arrival in heaven, where, she says,  she would even be happy to be just a dog or cat.


Ye rooks that fly in slender file
Into the thick'ning gloom,
Ye'll scarce have reached your grim gray tower
Ere I have reached my home;
Plover, that thrills the solitude
With such an eerie cry,
Seek you your nest ere night-fall comes,
As my heart's nest seek I.

O me, it is too soon to die--
And I was going home!

I see the pictures in the room,
The figures moving round,
The very flicker of the fire
Upon the patterned ground:
O that I were the shepherd-dog
That guards their happy door!
Or even the silly household cat
That basks upon the floor!

His will be done. O, gate of heaven,
Fairer than earthly door,
Receive me! Everlasting arms,
Enfold me evermore!

I cut out a lot above, but she is not limited to such typical thoughts;  She said, cleverly:

“A preface is usually an excrescence on a good book, and a vain apology for a worthless one;”

She sought to specify emotions freshly. This passage is from 
John Halifax, Gentleman (1857):

[It] was the first time in my life I ever knew the meaning of that rare thing, tenderness. A quality different from kindliness, affectionateness, or benevolence; a quality which can exist only in strong, deep, and undemonstrative natures, and therefore in its perfection is oftenest found in men.”

Then there is this passage, describing a conversation about capital punishment which appeared in A Life for a Life (1859).

Oh, the comfort—
The inexpressible comfort of feeling
safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words—but pouring them
All right out—just as they are—
Chaff and grain together—
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them—
Keep what is worth keeping—
and with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

There is a nice biographical essay on this author at the Victorian web.

Her father had roots in minor Irish gentry.  Dinah's mother came from a prosperous background.  In the 1820's Thomas Mulock, a preacher, met her mother, according to the Victorian web. while he

... was .... lodging in a cottage between Stoke and Newcastle-under-Lyme. The widow of a prosperous Newcastle tanner lived next door with her three unmarried daughters. On 7 June 1825, one of the daughters, Dinah Mellard, was married to Thomas Mulock. The bride was past thirty; the groom dressed in white from head to foot on his wedding day. Dinah Mulock, born the next year, was their eldest child.

Dinah Craik had a rough childhood. Her father, was locked up in a lunatic asylum, for a while, and when her mother died, he abandoned all his children.

I see a freshness in Dinah Craik's psychological analyses that I hope does not sink beneath the Victorian sentiments.

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